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Alleged sole survivor of German neo-Nazi terror cell facing trial verdict

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Alleged sole survivor of German neo-Nazi terror cell facing trial verdict

Even when Michèle Kiesewetter, a police officer, was shot dead with the same gun in 2007, investigators still failed to spot the connection. 

It was not until the bodies of Böhnhardt and Mundlos were found in a burned out camper van after a botched bank robbery in 2011 that the truth about the case began to emerge.

Ms Zschäpe handed herself in to police a few days later after setting fire to an apartment she shared with the two men. Police found a number of video recordings in the apartment in which the terror cell claimed responsibility for the immigrant killings.

Prosecutors also allege the group was responsible for a series of nail bombings including one in Cologne in 2004 in which 22 people were injured.

The trial raised questions over how much German intelligence knew about the group’s activities. A number of paid intelligence informants were in contact with the cell members, and at one point an intelligence officer was close to the scene of a shooting.

A parliamentary inquiry found no evidence of links between the intelligence services and the cell’s members.

Ms Zschäpe initially refused to comment at her trial and remained silent for two and a half years. She has since confessed to membership of the group but denied knowing anything about the murders or bombings. She claimed she was in love with Böhnhardt and stayed with the two men to prevent him killing himself.

“Please don’t convict me in their place for something that I never wanted to do and never did,” she said in a final statement to the court last week. 

The defence has argued for a ten-year jail sentence for Ms Zschäpe’s role in aiding the two men.

Prosecutors maintain she was a knowing participant in the killings and have called for a life sentence.

Verdicts are also expected in the cases of four other defendants on lesser charges of providing support to the terror cell.

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Health

Anthony Head to play Robin Fairbrother in Radio 4 soap

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Anthony Head to play Robin Fairbrother in Radio 4 soap

It was an affair that sent ripples through The Archers – young Elizabeth Archer falling for Robin Fairbrother, a dashing older man, only to have her heart broken when she discovered that he was married.

More than 30 years on, the couple could rekindle their romance after the BBC announced that Robin is making a return, now played by Anthony Head.

Long-time fans of The Archers will recall the original 1987 storyline, which culminated in Elizabeth angrily confronting Robin and pouring a glass of wine over him.

Many listeners will remember the character, but the BBC say Robin was a silent character throughout, referred to only in the third person, and this will be the first time he has been voiced.

Radio 4 paved the way for his return by introducing his sons, Toby and Rex, in 2015.

Head, a heart-throb since his days in the Nescafe Gold Blend adverts, will join the soap for a limited period from July 29.

Asked if his character had a prospect of romance, he replied: “That would be quick work, wouldn’t it?”

Head described Robin as “a bit of a smooth-talker. I find it fascinating that he’s been around for some time but he’s never been heard before. He’s a wine merchant. He is very affable to everyone, as affable as he possibly can be.”

Elizabeth is now a widow, following the death of her husband, Nigel Pargetter. The BBC recently teased: “Could there be room for someone else in Elizabeth’s life as she enters her sixth decade?”

It is unusual for The Archers to cast well-known actors. Head said: “When you’re asked to do something that is a classic British bastion, you say yes. I don’t listen constantly so I don’t know all the storylines. But when I’m mucking out the donkeys, I listen to The Archers and Desert Island Discs.

“It’s such lovely listening, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know exactly what’s going on.”

On whether Robin would cause trouble in Ambridge, Head said: “Not as far as he is concerned.”

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First smallpox treatment approved amid fears virus could become “weaponised”

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First smallpox treatment approved amid fears virus could become "weaponised"

Smallpox – a contagious and often fatal disease responsible for the deaths of 300 million people in the 20th century alone – was declared completely eradicated by the World Health Organization in 1980 after a mass vaccination drive.

Although the disease is no longer naturally transmitted between people, experts believe that the virus still remains a global health security threat.

Although today, only two stores of the disease are known to exist –  in research laboratories in Russia and the US –   stocks of the virus unknown to experts could still be out there.

In 2014, six  forgotten vials of the virus were found in a National Institute of Health storeroom in Maryland.  The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also stated that there is a “credible concern” that some countries have in the past weaponised the smallpox virus,  with these bioweapons possibly falling into the hands of terrorists or criminals.

Professor David R. Harper,  a senior fellow at Chatham House who was not involved in the research, said it is impossible for governments and security experts to be aware of all existing stocks of the virus – which could relatively easily be turned into a weapon. “It’s impossible to police that sort of thing,” he said. 

Another concern for experts is that terrorists could rebuild a synthetic version of the virus using gene editing techniques. But given the complexity of this Prof. Harper believes this is a less likely scenario. 

Fears that the virus could deliberately or unwittingly be released prompted the US government to fund the current research which began 15 years ago. 

TPOXX works by containing the virus in an infected cell before it can spread to the rest of the body, giving the body’s immune system time to fight off the disease.

The US government aims to have a vaccine for every person in the country to prevent the spread of smallpox in the event of an outbreak and is currently stockpiling 2 million treatment courses of TPOXX.

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We can treat Aids with medicine – but only love will beat its insidious stigma

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We can treat Aids with medicine – but only love will beat its insidious stigma

Aids activism has always been about connecting with people on the margins. Our movement is defined by uplifting those cast aside by society: reaching out with love, connecting them to a supportive community, and helping them get the care they need. That is the spirit in which thousands of researchers and activists, myself included, will attend the 22nd annual International Aids Conference in Amsterdam next week.

The international community has made remarkable progress in the fight against Aids, in no small part thanks to this gathering. The last two decades have seen the number of people on treatment for HIV/Aids increase fiftyfold. Dramatic medical advances mean that people living with HIV lead full, joyous lives. A diagnosis is no longer a death sentence. Such progress has been made not only thanks to scientific innovations, but to efforts around the world to fight stigma and social isolation with compassion, dignity, and love.

I’ve seen this progress first hand in my visits to South Africa. When I first visited Durban in 2005, I met with a local LGBT support group in relative secret, because no one wanted to be seen or photographed with me in my capacity as an Aids activist. They couldn’t risk revealing their HIV status or sexual orientation to the broader community or even to their own families.

This was sadly the case for one lovely young man, Leslie Jackson, who was ostracised by practically his entire family simply for being gay. But thanks in part to extensive training of healthcare workers, and support to the LGBT community through a programme funded by the Elton John Aids Foundation, by the time Leslie joined me and David at the Gateway Health Clinic in Durban in 2016, he proudly explained his work as a peer educator to not only clinic staff but to the world’s media as well.

The progress is undeniable, yet our work is far from over. There were 1.87 million new infections in 2016 – and nearly half of people living with HIV that year did not have access to treatment. Medicines may reduce viral loads, but they cannot eliminate the insidious stigma still attached to the disease. And we still face enormous challenges in testing and treating people in remote parts of the world.

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